I visited Masuda town in Akita prefecture last weekend. The town is famous for “Uchi-gura(kura)”. “Kura” is Usually built outside and used as storage. However “Kura” in Masuda is somehow built inside (“uchi” means inside, that’s why it is called “uchi-gura”) and used for living room or for special occasion for example wedding ceremony or funerals.
Some of the “kura” has a pretty gorgeous second floor, Every wood part is japanned!!(“japan” is kind of lacquer which is used in Asia.) It does not look like “kura” because it is too gorgeous. They are made rather to show how rich they are so they put a lot of money to build them.
Most of “Kura” in Masuda has black plaster walls. You can see beautiful plaster workmanship on it. Normally the outside door is opened and held on with a wood cover which has fine wood works. The doors itself have 5 layer construction. When they are closed they might be shut out from fire perfectly. “Kura” is usually built for fire-safety. Well, certainly in the Edo Period, There were a lot of fires, but after the boom of building “kura” in Masuda in Meiji period, there was no big fire in the town after all.
This picture is the newest “kura” in Masuda, which is built in early Showa period, so it has the most exquisite workmanship. Mica powder is added in the black plaster and it made the surface shiny. This craftsmanship is so fine so you cannot see the same one at the other “kura” even in Masuda. An officer from the Cultural Affairs Agency complimented to the owner, “Now such fine workmanship is rarely seen, it is so precious!”
“Kura” in Masuda cannot be seen from outside so they hadn’t known that what kind of appearances did their neighbor’s “kura” had. Even owners themselves hadn’t known the value of their own “kura”!!
The owner of this “kura” did us tour from the front to the end of their premises so carefully. And they even served us hot tea and snacks. We only required 100 yen for it! Isn’t it so inexpensive! Most of the “kura” belong to individuals, they are not public museum. So they did us the tour during their daily works. People in Masuda just have started this as sightseeing resources in several years. I believe Masuda town will be more famous in the near future. When it become so they should ask a higher admission fee.